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Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler Paperback – September 10, 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The most accessible of the New York School of poets proves to be a delightful letter writer, as this breezy stream of correspondence over 40 years attests. Highlights are his regular bulletins to fellow poets John Ashbery, Barbara Guest and Kenneth Koch (Frank O'Hara and W.H. Auden are sadly missing). Schuyler's letters are primarily a means of keeping in touch, garnished with gossip, film and theater recommendations and other amusements. He does, of course, find time to comment archly on contemporary poetry, give solid editorial criticism, preview his own verse (including the unpublished "A Blue Shadow Painting") and collaborate with Ashbery on their satiric novel, A Nest of Ninnies. In addition to the city's poetry scene, Schuyler moved in the Manhattan art world, American expatriate cliques in Italy and gay New York. Keeping up with Schuyler's wide interests, gregariousness and penchant for name dropping, editor Corbett supplies hundreds of footnotes. There are, however, gaps in the record, starting at the time of Schuyler's nervous breakdown in 1961 and recurring over his final two decades as he struggled with mental illness. But Schuyler, unlike a friend who wanted all his letters burned, wrote to amuse his correspondents, not confess to posterity; he never worried, like that friend, about leaving behind what he called "a whited sepulcher" for himself.
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"An extraordinarily rich and compelling book, a wonder. James Schuyler's letters provide the perfect companion to his brilliant and memorable poems--hilarious, self-deprecating, insightful, and moving, ever so moving."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Turtle Point Press; First edition (September 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885586302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885586308
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,435,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By J. Faulk on February 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
yet 5 stars! for the unstinting efforts of editor William Corbett who put 13 years into its preparation; for Jimmy's many true friends who were glad to help; for Jimmy himself who was warm and unpretensious, who chose to suppress anything hurtful to others, who endeavored to make each letter a little present enveloping "I care about you," who got through 40 years of creativity with the schizophrenia mallet poised above his head.

I like to read literary persons' (mostly homosexuals') diaries, memoirs, letters, as well as biographies. But a poet of the New York School is not truly appropriate for me because I don't read poetry. And all the New York Schools of this and that, I view as indubitable cornerstones of the nation's arts beginning in the 1950s, but the thought remains: How much of this stuff is really any good, considering that in democratic America every man and woman has the vote and the talent? Who reads it in Britain, Canada, and Australia?

The book has 450 pages of letters and 887, yes 887, footnotes, blessedly succinct. This proliferation of footnotes arises from the fact that Jimmy loved to read all kinds of obscure books, even horticulture. Too, he plows up so many poets, artists, minor publishers, movies, records, etc. The book has a glossary comprising the names of two dozen of his chief correspondents plus explanatory paragraphs.

Of the NY School of Poets, O'Hara, Ashbery, and Koch were Harvard grads. Schuyler (1923-1991) was less fortunate. His parents divorced when he was six. His mother remarried when he was eight, and then had another son. His stepfather, reacting to Jimmy's homosexual aura and obsessive book reading, even tried to thwart the boy's getting a library card.
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